Elisheva Cohen

Despite beginning her career late in life, Elisheva Benjamin Cohen became indispensable to the newly created Israel Museum as Chief Curator for the Arts. Cohen studied art history at the Universities of Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, and Marburg before marrying and making Aliyah in 1933. For the next twenty years, she raised a family in Jerusalem, but after her divorce in 1954, she asked herself “what I would do with my life.” At a chance meeting with the director of the Bezalel National Museum, she offered to arrange the museum’s drawings and prints, which had been stored in wooden boxes. She took a study trip to Europe, where she met curators and learned about storage, cataloguing and exhibiting works printed on paper, before beginning work at the Bezalel National Museum on January 1, 1956. Her first exhibition was a collection of Rembrandt’s etchings and drawings of biblical subjects. She ran the museum whenever the director was abroad on fundraising trips, and helped plan the new Israel Museum—when it opened, the Bezalel Museum became its art wing and Cohen became Chief Curator for the Arts as well as Curator for Prints and Drawings. The museum still uses her cataloguing system.

Topics: Art, Israel

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Elisheva Cohen (1911 – 1989) was honored with both the Israel Prize and the title of Yakirat Yerushalayim (Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem) for her contributions to the establishment of the Israel Museum and her years as its curator.

Institution: Meira Perry-Lehmann.

Date of Birth


Date of Death
Curator, Administrator

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Elisheva Cohen." (Viewed on November 17, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/people/cohen-elisheva>.


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